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2011 Iowa traffic fatality number lowest since 1944

Ames, Iowa – Feb. 2, 2012 – There were 364 fatalities on Iowa roadways in 2011: the lowest number of deaths since 1944, according to data from the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT).

Fatalities over this period have declined despite the fact that:

  • Vehicle registrations have skyrocketed from 691,301 in 1944 to 4,141,397 in 2010.
  • There are 42 percent more paved highway miles on Iowa’s Primary Highway System (PHS) today than in the 1940s. (The 1945 official state map shows there were 5,459 miles of paved road. There are more than 9,400 miles on the PHS today.)

The crash rate has dropped from 4.43 fatalities for every 10,000 registered vehicles in 1944 to less than one fatality for every 10,000 registered vehicles in 2011.

Advances in vehicle safety, improvements to highway design and passage of highway safety laws have saved thousands of lives.

The use of seat belts continues to be a major factor in preventing traffic fatalities and serious injuries. Iowa’s 2011 “Life Toll,” a record of the number of people who have escaped serious injury or death because they were buckled up at the time of the crash, stands at 208.

Still, some people are not getting the message. Statistics show 116 people, 41.13 percent of all Iowa traffic fatalities, were unbelted. That number could be significantly higher because law enforcement officers were unable to discern seat belt use for 50 additional fatalities (17.73 percent).

Many safety measures implemented by the Iowa DOT or enacted by the Iowa Legislature are helping to save lives and prevent serious injury. These measures include:

  • Safety improvements made to the highway itself, such as shoulder rumble strips, centerline rumble stripes, safety edges and paved shoulders. These are all designed to reduce the number of lane/roadway departure crashes.
  • Installation of median cable barrier at locations with a higher-than-average incidence of median crossover crashes on multilane, high-speed roadways.
  • Enactment of Iowa’s graduated driver’s license system, which is aimed at increasing the skill sets of novice drivers, while also increasing parental involvement and supervision.
  • 2010 enactment of the law requiring all passengers under age 18 to use safety restraints, regardless of seating position in the vehicle.
  • 2010 enactment of the law prohibiting texting while driving.
  • 2010 enactment of the law prohibiting teens with restricted driver’s licenses from using any electronic communication or entertainment device while driving.
  • The Safe Routes to School program, which is working to increase pedestrian/bicycle safety.
  • Site-specific safety improvements to Iowa’s roadways at locations selected in part through use of advanced crash analysis tools.

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